Caring cafe owners in South Shields are going above and beyond for their elderly customers, by making sure no one is lonely this Christmas.
The Nook Cafe, in Prince Edward Road, South Shields, delivers more than just hearty food and drinks.
The cafe has become a lifeline for a dozen regular customers aged in their 70s and 90s as kind-hearted staff ensure they are safe and well – by calling to check they are all right if they don’t turn up at their usual time.
Cafe owner Janice Booth, 61, from Ridgeway, South Shields, started the scheme after running the cafe for 15 years and growing close to her regular customers.
She says her staff, who are all parents, are just “natural carers” and that caring nature transcends into their relationship with their customers.
The mum-of-four said checking up on their customers is something that has been going on for years after regulars started leaving phone numbers and letting staff know if they were going to be late.
She said: “Ronnie is the oldest customer that we have and he started coming to us just after we opened when he lost his wife,”
“One day Ronnie left his phone number and, when he didn’t come in as usual, I just phoned him to make sure he was OK.
“If they haven’t got a phone, I get someone who lives near by to get in touch.”
Mr Beig, 80, of Prince Edward Road, said he has been coming to the cafe six days a week for around 15 years, bringing his three daughters along on a Saturday.
The former shipyard worker said: “When I lost my wife in 2001, I just happened to pop in here one day and it’s all stemmed from there.
“It’s a nice cafe. Everybody is really friendly and Janice even cooks my Sunday roast for me for Christmas. If I am not here, the phone rings and if I cannot get down someone picks me up. It’s the best cafe I have ever been to.”
The cafe now has become a community hub for elderly people who can find companionship and support from the other customers and the cafe’s five staff.
The unique business approach is a prime example of the aim of Shields Gazette-backed campaign No One Should Have No One – run in conjunction with Age UK South Tyenside - and supported by South Tyenside Council. The campign seeks to tackle loneliness among elderly people through encourgaing the public to volunteer for its services.
Mrs Booth said she loves all her customers and staff and they are like a family.
She said: “They all come in on certain days and they sometimes phone me if they have a doctors appointment or if they are going to be late. If I haven’t heard from them I get in touch.
“We had one old lady who used to come in here every day and we got to know her well. We had her house key and, when we hadn’t seen her for three days, we went over to the house to make sure she was alright.”
The cafe which is co-managed by Gillian Summers even helps to cook food their customers have brought in for their Christmas dinners.
Mrs Booth added: “They buy their food and we cook it for them for Christmas,
“Everything is cooked on Christmas Eve ready for the next day.
“The oven is on anyway.”